It was another cold winter night in Rochester as the little band occupied the little stage in the Little Theatre's Cafe. The band was giving sweet sway to the room with its bossa nova beat. A couple of dancers in front of the stage swayed, oblivious to the band. If they had danced any closer they would have been behind one another. Another couple who had been locked in each other's gaze abruptly got up and made for the door, their merlot and cheesecake unfinished. Sex was in the air. Blame it on the bossa nova.
Bossa nova first happened in the late 1950's when Brazilian samba and cool jazz were introduced via musicians like Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto. Bossa nova — meaning "the new way" in Portuguese — was similar to samba in its 5/4 rhythm, but more harmonically advanced. Some folk credit American jazz artists for influencing this augmentation while touring throughout South America. The quintessential bossa nova recording, Gilberto's "Girl From Ipanema" features a breathy and beautiful solo from American sax man Stan Getz. It was artists like Getz, Herbie Mann, and Chet Baker who brought jazz phrasing to the samba's polyrhythmic bliss and sophisticated shake to world-wide appeal.
Flash forward some 60-odd years later to the Upstate New York tundra and one Todd Bradley, multi-instrumentalist, rock 'n' roller, and boss of the Bossa Nova Bradley Brothers. Bradley with his ever-present lackadaisical grin and genuine charm, found himself seduced by the bossa nova. He had time on his hands as the other two members — Greg Townson and Jason Smay — of the famed rock 'n' roll trio, The Hi-Risers (where Bradley holds down bass playing and singing duty), were constantly on tour. The time was right. Bradley who sings and plays guitar in this bossa nova outfit plugged in his brothers, Scott on keys and Mark on Saxophone, along with Rochester's top cat on the bottom end, bassist Brian Williams.
Todd's syrupy baritone and syncopated guitar, the cascade of Scott's keys, the breathy augmentation of Mark's horn all atop Williams' sexified boom is just what this town needed. The band immediately developed a following of dancers, dreamers, romantics, and Romeos on the make. There's been a definite spike in marriage proposals, one night stands, and births since the band came to town. You can blame it on the cold; you can blame it on the music's illusive and seductive charm; or you can blame it on The Bossa Nova Bradley Brothers.
An edited transcript of a conversation with Todd Bradley follows.
City: What made you want to form a bossa nova band of all things? And why?
Todd Bradley: Yeah, why ... I've been listening to a lot of this music for the last 10 or 12 years.
What drew you to bossa nova?
I find it very soothing, calming to listen to. I mean, I still love rock 'n' roll and always will. It's not like I'm turning my back on rock 'n' roll.
But it's gotta be tough being the third of The Hi-Risers that's not on the road.
That's what gave birth to it, the Hi-Risers aren't playing as much.
But you could've put together another rock 'n' roll band.
I could've, but I just found this music so seductive in a way.
And your brothers were up for it?
Yeah. Being brothers, we've been playing music together for a long time. We started as a trio. A little over a year ago, I got the idea for a bossa nova band. The first guy I called was Brian Williams, he's such a great bass player. I figured even though he was super busy, he would probably still say yes.
How did you go about learning the material? Did you know the language?
It's a real challenge. I don't speak Portuguese. I took Spanish in high school, which I thought would help more than it does. The Internet is a wonderful tool. If it weren't for that I don't think I'd be able to do this. I just look up the lyrics on line, print them out and painstakingly go over each song numerous times until I get it.
What is the Bossa Nova Bradley Brothers' twist? What do you add to the music that is unmistakably yours?
I really think we're doing our best just to get though the songs.
What about this music comes easy to you?
Nothing. Really, nothing comes easy.
Any immediate plans?
I'd like to think the Bossa Nova Bradley Brothers can help make Rochester the bossa nova capital of Western New York.
The band is the pistol-packin' ruler of Western swing and all the genres that lead up to it.